The Dream of Meat

You are dreaming.

The oddity of recognizing this does not impede your progress forward into the dining hall's elegant vastness. Nor does it permit you to deviate from the path the dreaming part of you—the part that weaves the world—has chosen for you.

"Oh, you're finally here!"

There is a dining table, a perfectly formed slab of rock stretching impossibly across the hall's floor, and at its head stands a prism-headed man in a hastily drawn suit. His layered voices sound exactly like him.

"Please, please, sit down! Have a plate! Don't let it be wasted."

The prism-headed man is beside you, ushering you to your seat; a big wooden chair, its arms and back closing around you like a prison, pinning you to the table's rim—and there he is again, across the table, half-obscured by the feast.

"Eat, eat!"

"I'm not hungry," you reply, but that's a lie.

You've never been hungrier than this.

There's an aching void curling inside your belly, gnawing at your spine and digging its claws into your belly's soft flesh; your teeth ache to bite and tear, your hands twist and shake—

And there, before you, is the feast.

The prism-headed man smiles indulgently as you forget why you didn't want to eat.

There's no plate for you to fill, just countless serving dishes. Some within reach, others too far for your spindly limbs to stretch; they all look delicious.

There's a big bowl of vomit-glazed eyeballs, and an elegant display of pickled fingers floating in aspic, and a pile of ribs dripping with something pale and stringy—it smells soapily bitter and tastes better, a lovely contrast to the almost-raw meat barely covering the bones.

There's even a set of brains, still held within their peeled skulls, each one floating in its own vat of thin yellow broth—not a spoon in sight so you dig in with your fingers, loving the way the soft flesh squishes and breaks as your claws penetrate its surface.

There's so much to eat, so much to shovel into your mouth to soothe the endless hunger twisting inside you! And through it all the prism-headed man is there, across the table, smiling at you—

"A-aren't you going to have any?" you mumble at him through a break in your gluttony.

He shakes his head. "No, no. It's all for you. Besides, I wouldn't know where to start!"

Your reply is an incoherent mumble around the edges of a carefully tied sausage, its sharply pungent interior full of something deliciously earthy, flecked with scraps of undigested meat—

Gods, you can't stop eating. It's all so good! And none of it touches the hunger inside you, not even the slightest bit, but ...

That's not okay, of course it's not, but it means you'll never need to stop eating and maybe, just maybe, that's a good thing—

The prism-headed man is still smiling at you from across the table, his toothy grin growing larger and more frustrating with every second—it's such a condescending thing, that grin! Full of scattered rainbows and pastel nightmares, like a broken jar of cotton candy ...

It looks tastier by far than the half-empty dishes in your reach.

But oh, but oh—the chair is closed so close around you! Like bars stretching across your vision, like shackles closing around your feet and a collar around your neck—a prison penning you in, hold you back!

You can't reach him no matter how far your arms stretch, no matter how spindly you draw them upon the world nor how wide your mouth gapes. A crime, a crime! To be so restrained in your own dream—

And then the plates around you are empty, a vast wasteland cut out of the feast. Nothing to eat, nothing to do, nothing to distract you from the hunger inside you even as you gnaw on your arm and bite at your belly and pull with your teeth on skin that stubbornly refuses to break, that covers flesh like rubber melted around butter, that stretches and gives—

Your body refuses to be a meal but it yields beneath your touch, shifting and distorting until it's skinny-starved enough to crawl and ooze and drip through the bars of your cage, concave soul looming pendulously over the table's riches on a dozen needle-thin limbs—

Your vast mouth gulps down the feast with each step you take, and the prism-headed man is laughing, laughing, louder and louder as you approach him, as you get closer to his twisted smile and your razor-scrap teeth close around the broken reflections spilling from his head—

And the dream ends.